Writing about: Family Travel, kids, places, food…

Author: kateg (Page 1 of 25)

Penang Memories

We first went to Penang in 2001 and spent four months in Batu Ferringhi beach. I just had my older three boys then who were about 14, 12, and 6. My mom also joined us for over a month. We had a condo near to the beach and days were spent pottering around butterfly or fruit farms, the beach, George Town to the mall and old houses and historic cemeteries, and of course the night market and food stalls. I didn’t cook once as food was so good and cheap. We spent most evenings at one of our favorite beach places eating grilled local catch and drinking “frosties” (the 6 year old’s term for a frozen mug of beer).

Batu Ferringhi Beach

We also visited a famous local artist as I realized that I’d bought some UNICEF postcards that featured one of his amazing batiks. The gallery is right in the middle of Batu Ferringhi and filled with Chuah Thean Teng’s work plus that of his two sons and one grandson. When we were there in 2001, we spent a couple of hours talking to the very elderly Mr Teng and mom and one of his sons were deep in conversation about art, tai chi, world affairs and more. It was a really neat experience and I got buy some prints (the actual batiks were huge and very, very expensive) and have the artist sign them. I had them professionally framed later and they have been in my homes since.

House in Florida with three of the pictures framed

So it was really fun to visit the gallery again a couple of days ago and to meet the two brothers are still painting and running the studio. The oldest (the one mom connected with so well) is 80 now and his father has passed away. Their work is carrying on and his son is also an artist. We spent a couple of hours chatting and learning all about his early training in Malaysia and then in London. He shared stories of how art reflected politics and philosophy as well as comments on the styles. He also showed us many canvases.

It was really neat to be able to take photos of some of the pieces I had prints of and to revisit the place.  I don’t know how long it will be there honestly but I hope the grandson will somehow keep it going.

http://www.yahongart.com/

Yogyakarta Pop Up

With Charlotte now in her last year of high school (well she’s dual enrolled in university) we decided to do a last couple of worldschool popups with other families. These are a great way to travel to a place and be able to connect with parents and kids to do day trips or meals or classes etc. together. With the one we like, there is flexibility to choose which activities to join and there is no pressure to be social if you don’t feel like it (as introverts we like this).

https://www.worldschoolpopuphub.com

The week-long pop up in Yogyakarta meshed with our dates nicely so we flew from Bangkok to Singapore (18 hour stop over) and then on to Jogja as the locals call it. The popup was centered around the Hyatt (not usually done this way) which was a large resort with golf course, multiple restaurants, gorgeous pools, spa etc. We were able to use points and book the club access which meant a huge buffet breakfast, cocktail hours, and “snacks” in the evening (these were really full meals).

We ended up enjoying the resort so much that most of our meals were there and we spent quite a few days lounging by the pool with a cold coconut to drink and our books. In our defense, two of us did come down with some kind of chest infection (not COVID thankfully) and so tried to isolate a bit. We did go to a big mall that was filled with top name brands and there were plenty of markets and street food areas. It’s easy to eat very well for a low price here.

One day (pre-illness) we went with the group to Borobudur Temple which is famous because it is the largest Buddhist temple compound in the world. The temple has hundreds of Buddha statues, decorative reliefs, and stories from the life and teachings of Buddha. It was very nice but VERY hot and humid.

It was a really nice week spent with some amazing people who are likewise traveling the world with their kids. I think our favorite times were just hanging out in the lounge over dinner and drinks and getting to know everyone.

Below in the distance is Mount Merapi which is an active volcano and when there are no clouds, the lava explosions can be seen. We were assured that we were far enough from it to not be in danger.

18 Hour Stopover – Singapore

The Apple store (dome on the left) is neat.

We were traveling from Bangkok to Yogyakarta and one of the cheap flights had a layover in Singapore for 18 hours so we thought why not (and day time layover). We arrived about lunchtime and checked into the airport hotel there and then quickly got a Grab into the main area of the city. We started in Marina Bay Sands which is a big shopping mall but we needed lunch so this worked out. Walking out of there we went straight into the Gardens by the Bay as I really wanted to see these big trees in the area and go across the walkway to view them.

It’s a lovely area and the gardens are very pretty with lakes and must be impressive at night too. Unfortunately with limited time and the very high heat that day, we didn’t venture far.

We later headed to one of the famous Hawker Food stands and had quite a nice dinner.

Back to the hotel for some sleep and then off early the next morning to Indonesia. I’d go back to Singapore but it didn’t excite me. Prices were very high but it was extremely clean!

Tokyo Tower

The Tokyo Tower is rather iconic and we decide to do the tour up it as the day was so pretty and clear. It is 333 meters high and is the world’s tallest, self-supported steel tower – 3 meters taller than the Eiffel Tower.

And being bright red, it stands out.

From the top we had lovely views of the city and Mount Fuji in the distance (although not that clear).

Sight-Seeing in Tokyo

We did quite a bit of the sight-seeing spots around the city and generally it was decent weather. We were a bit shocked on day one as there was an unexpected snow fall right as we were arriving. Our clothing was rather ragamuffin as we were headed to S.E. Asia and the heat for a few months with Japan being the only cold spot. Charlotte had no coat and just a jumper so layered up with pink raincoat and I did have a puffer jacket thankfully.

We went to quite a few spots by easily taking Go which is the Uber-type app to call cars. Easy, clean, and fancy, and fast.

One of our first places to wander around was in the Imperial Castle Gardens. The famous cherry trees were not in bloom but the plum trees were and pretty. I also enjoyed seeing various citrus trees which was surprising with the snow.

Tokyo Station was in a lovely old building and hides the jam packed inside. Whole areas filled with restaurants and shops. Quite a maze.

We spent the day in a great museum complex including the Tokyo National Museum. Really recommend this one plus the others nearby in the park.

We also enjoyed the National Art Center as much for the incredible architecture as art space.

Our last half of the week was in Hamamatsucho and we enjoyed this area a lot. There were some fancy bakeries and fun places to eat that seemed much more for residents than tourists. We also discovered a couple of smaller parks that were peaceful although probably prettier after winter.

Shopping was experienced in Ginza Six and surrounding areas. And of course loads of eating because we were walking so much!

Japan Finally – the Food Post

Max has longed to go to Japan for a decade and we almost moved there in 2021 as I was offered a job but for various reasons, we just never made it until now.

We spent a week in Tokyo kind of getting our bearings on what I thought would be a more complicated country to get around in. I was wrong on that as it was really easy overall.

We stayed in two areas: Tsukiji and Hamamatsucho.

The first was next to what used to be the main market and still is an active fish market, but they moved the big tuna elsewhere. They did have some good-looking seafood for sale but with a tiny kitchen, we just ate out. There were loads of tiny restaurants around us and many we didn’t realize were a restaurant as they only opened at night or had limited signage.

Most of the sushi places around there have just a few seats; sometimes only 6 to 10 so you either just get lucky or book in advance. We hit a couple that had no menus (just a sheet of grainy pictures) only Japanese pricing up on the wall. That was interesting and of course nerve wracking as we didn’t want to order anything crazy or super expensive. But the chef was very kind and helpful and we mimed and used google translate to help.

This gives the prices of the sushi as it changes depending on market

We also had great ramen and tempura. I really like the bento boxes as well as eating a variety of bits and pieces is fun. I think we enjoyed all the food, even at times we were a tad unsure what we were eating. We did have some very squishy sea urchin sushi that neither Max nor I want to revisit and I’m not a fan of chawanmushi – steamed savory egg custard.

It can be hard to find restaurants surprisingly and we ended up in an office area where people were trying to get into places for lunch. We managed 3 seats at a counter for 10 and had sashimi bowls that were one of our best meals. It was very unassuming place on the ground floor of a high rise, and I could not say the name but wow delicious. This is the type of experience we seemed to have often.

This may not look fancy but wow was this meal amazing in taste

Some fun bits from Family Mart.

We also became fans of Family Mart. Do not visualize US convenience stores at all. These have delicious ready made meals and onigiri (rice with tuna in seaweed). There are whole YouTube videos about the joys of Family Mart!

Japan was a win and we are looking forward to going back and getting out of Tokyo to explore more.

Colmar

We were heading to Europe for a few months, flying into Paris and picking up our leased car. This is a much cheaper way of having a car in Europe for a few months than a rental and gave us a brand-new Peugeot. It was MUCH smaller than it looked in the pictures so there was a lot of interesting language while trying to get us all in plus suitcases and Darwin. But we did it and set off for our first few days in Colmar. This is a small town in the Grand Est region of northeastern France, very near the border with Germany.

The old town is very atmospheric with cobblestone streets lined with half-timbered medieval and early Renaissance buildings. The Gothic 13th-century, Eglise Saint-Martin church stands in the central Place de la Cathédrale and the whole town is like a fairy-tale place. It is also on the Alsace Wine Route, with a special focus in Riesling and Gewürztraminer wines (sweet for me but loads of great beers too).

There are some nice museums and places to visit. Plenty to do for quite a few days.

We enjoyed multiple meals of sausages, sauerkraut, and hefty dumplings plus a lovely pizza-type meal of flammekueche which is cheese and onion on a base of cream and then grilled. Heavy but delicious.

One evening we met up with online friends from a big FB group we are part of. We do check-ins each week and often connect with people who are in the same place. It’s really fun to meet new people and learn where we are all traveling to.

Our time was short in Colmar but we really want to go back and especially for the Christmas market as apparently it’s really incredible. Put it on the list!

Girona

After our house swap outside of Paris finished, we were struggling with the cold and damp and lack of blue skies. So, after looking at the map, we loaded up the car and headed south. The rain stayed with us most of the way until we hit the Mediterranean and turned southwest into Spain. We had not been to the northern part of Spain before and so settled on Girona as our base.

And I’m so glad we did. We really loved it here. Our house was in the north part up in the pine forest again with lovely sunsets.

The old part of Girona dates back again to Medieval times with an old walled quarter and Roman ruins. There are windy pedestrian streets with museums and restaurants plus lovely old Arabic baths next to the Cathedrals.

Charlotte found a great stable to ride at although it was interesting to now juggle Catalan as well as Spanish in her instruction. Very nice and patient people and quite a horsey-area.

It is an easy train trip (35 minutes) into Barcelona and driving to the beach takes about 45 minutes. We loved the windy road going over to Cadaques although driving through the little seaside town meant going along a one-way “road” on the quayside with large water drop off. I was not a fan of that!

There are loads of small villages to explore, each with its own history and incredible buildings. The driving is easy and it’s such a pleasant and sunny area that I hope we will be back soon.

Paris: House-Swap

We had a lovely house swap just outside of Paris but with easy train rides into the city. It also allowed us to do lots of day trips around too.

The picture above looks so lovely with our favorite crepes but then we fell into laughing as Mark snaffled the top of Charlotte’s crepe — kids!

One of the day trips was somewhere I had wanted to go for years and that was Giverny – Claude Monet’s garden. It was really lovely and so worth the drive out there to visit. I think we all enjoyed it even though it was quite full that day.

We celebrated Halloween there and went to a farm to pick out our pumpkins. A very rainy and cold day!

And on another rainy and cold day we headed up north to the coast and went to Honfleur. It’s a lovely town and probably better enjoyed when a tad dryer and warmer but it was nice to visit.

A fun house swap in a great location although slightly “dangerous” as it was a five minute walk to a wonderful boulangerie with incredible tarts and bread. We indulged a tad often!

Loire Valley

We spent a few days in the Loire Valley and visited multiple Chateaus that were just gorgeous. There were a few wet days in October but often we had lovely sunny skies and quite warm weather thankfully.

It’s fun to watch an 11-year-old’s face when you pull into another chateau or cathedral!

But it was lots of fun with much laughter and oohing and aahing.

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